Training musicians in hospitals

Filed : ARTS & HEALTH, In Hospitals, Lachlan Health Service Culture & Arts Program, PAST PROJECTS .

‘Life changing’ is how one of the six trainee Musicians in Hospitals described our training program at Parkes Hospital in June.

After a 2016 pilot music in hospitals program in Parkes and Forbes, Lachlan Health Service funded Arts OutWest to run this new training for local professional musicians. The training took place June 26 and 27 at Parkes Hospital.

“The trainees are all experienced musicians and many have backgrounds in health or social work, but this training was something new for everyone. One participant described it as ‘life changing’,” Arts OutWest executive director Tracey Callinan said.

Six musicians from across the NSW Central West were selected from a long list of candidates. They were Blair Gough (from Woodstock), Drew Farrant-Jayet (Parkes), Leah O’Rourke (Parkes), Stephan de Wit van der Merwe (Parkes), Kenneth Smith (Orange) and Karina Hill (Oberon).

The musicians with Kerrie Davies (third from left) and Tracey Callinan (second from right)

The two-day training program included video link-up sessions with UK-based experts Opus and with music therapist Kerrie Davies. Training covered techniques for engaging by the bedside, ethics, suitable repertoire and working with health professionals. The trainees also undertook practical experience in the Hospital.

“This type of program is not ‘music therapy’ and it’s not performance, it’s about a close intimate interaction using music,” Ms Callinan explained. “This can be difficult, challenging work but it’s also very rewarding work,” she said.

Their practical sessions took the musicians to a variety of places in the hospital – rehabilitation, palliative care, general wards and even playing to a newborn baby.

Blair Gough and Stephan de Wit van der Merwe. Photo: Jay-Lee Zagrovic.

“There’s a wide body of research that live music experiences can have beneficial outcomes for people in hospitals and aged care,” Ms Callinan said. “For patients, visitors and staff this kind of music interaction can be fun or a welcome distraction, but it can also – as our trainee musicians found – be quite emotional. The musicians had some amazing responses during their sessions at Parkes Hospital last week.”

Andrew Davies, Kerrie Davies, Kenneth Smith, Karina Hill with Wendy Priddle and newborn Georgie Nicholson. Photo: Jay-Lee Zagrovic.

The musicians will complete their training with follow-up, supervised sessions at other local hospitals or aged care facilities. The trainees were paid for their participation in the program.

Arts OutWest is now looking at funding to repeat this training for more musicians and looking at paid opportunities for the trained musicians to work in hospitals and aged care facilities around the region.

“There’s been a huge amount of interest in this program, including enquiries from inter-state,” Ms Callinan said. “We’re excited by the possibilities of this work.”

See the Cowra Guardian story on Blair’s involvement .

Blair said:

“It was fantastic, we went to Parkes and all met up,” he said 

“There are a variety of musicians, there’s a harp player, a timber drum, a ukulele player, myself playing guitar and harmonica. 

“We all got on really well and did the training with Skype sessions… On the second day we went into pairs and went into three different situations in the hospital.

“It was life changing.” 

Blair recalls one situation where he was asked by the family of a palliative care patient to play at their bedside. 

“We were in the physiotherapy department… we played upbeat songs,” he said.  

“Then this family came and asked if we could play in palliative care.” 

“He loved music and when we played, he opened his eyes and kicked his leg and he hadn’t opened his eyes all day.” 

He said this moment has inspired him to want to continue playing in hospitals. 

“It was awesome and I love it and the response from the family was so incredible, they are so grateful and the staff as well,” he said. 

“It creates a great atmosphere in the whole hospital and people love it, it’s different.” 

Blair said he has gigs lined up in Parkes and Forbes hospital. 

“It’s getting more recognition as a genuine health practice. I hope it gets more popular, you can just see the benefits it provides.” 


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